Summertime may be coming to a close, but iced coffee season is never over. Sure, a steaming hot cup ’o joe has its place in life — but sometimes, a cold, strong glass of coffee to the face is just the refreshing caffeine fix you’re craving and nothing else will do.
Option one: Drive to Starbucks (again) and spend $3.50 on a Grande. Option two: Learn how easy it is to make a delicious café-grade batch at home to save yourself both the trip and money.
Whether you’re dedicated (and patient) enough to make cold brew from scratch or want to learn the secret to flash brewing, Ben Helfen, education support specialist at Counter Culture Coffee shares his pro tips for making the best batch of at-home iced coffee every time.
Coffee is more than 95% water (even cold brew concentrates), so it makes sense that the quality of water you use will impact the quality of your home brew.
“Generally, basic carbon filtration will do an excellent job of removing some unpleasant flavors in water,” says Helfen. So your handy Brita pitcher will go a long way in upping the yum factor of your iced coffee. That said, if you live in a municipality with hard water, you may need to invest in a more heavy-duty water filtration system.
Keep It Clean
Many people like to DIY iced coffee in large batches so they can enjoy it over the course of a few days. But beware, because this extended hold time can allow the tiniest amount of bacteria to exponentially multiply.
“Storing cold coffee in the fridge will help, but bacterial growth can still happen if the equipment wasn’t properly sanitized,” explains Helfen. “Even if it doesn’t make you sick, it can impact the flavor of your cold coffee in a very negative way.”
Clean your coffee pot with dish soap and hot water after every use. To decalcify mineral build-up in the coffee maker, once a month you’ll want to “brew” a blend of white distilled vinegar and water, then “brew” a second batch of just water to flush it all out.
Keep Out The Air
“Keeping air away during brewing helps preserve the good flavors in your coffee longer,” says Helfen. It also helps prevent oxidation, which will mess with your java’s pH balance and leave it tasting bitter and stale.
Keeping outside air at bay is especially important when making cold brew, a method that takes much longer. Helfen suggests resting plastic wrap on the surface of your saturated coffee bed to really ensure no air gets in during the process.
Tightly Seal Your Coffee
Assuming you don’t want a cold glass of iced coffee that tastes like lunch meat, it’s crucial that you store your prepared brew in a tightly sealed container in your fridge.
“Air circulates inside refrigerators quite aggressively, and if your brews aren’t sealed off from that air circulation, they will absorb those flavors,” explains Helfen.
Skip The Coffee Ice Cubes
Making ice cubes out of coffee seems like a good idea in theory; it chills your beverage without diluting its strength (like regular water ice cubes can do). But similarly to leaving unsealed coffee in your fridge, “if coffee ice cubes are just hanging out exposed in your freezer, they can take on other flavors you don’t want,” says Helfen.
Master Flash Brewing
If you’re jonesing for an iced coffee right the heck now but didn’t prepare any cold brew ahead of time, try flash brewing a batch. To prepare cold coffee in this method, you brew hot coffee like normal, then use less hot water and add it back to the coffee at the end by way of ice. “Essentially, you’re brewing a hot concentrate, then diluting it and chilling it with ice,” explains Helfen.
Helfen’s ideal measurements: 30 grams of regular coffee normally calls for 500 grams of water. For this method, do a pourover with 30 grams of coffee, and brew it with around 300 grams of hot water; then, split the difference by adding 200 grams of ice.